Even though I've been running for about a year now, I still consider myself a baby runner. I'm miles and miles away from where I'd like to be as far as my endurance and speed are concerned, so actually running in a marathon or half-marathon (or even just the 10K I'm determined to finish this year) are just pipe dreams right now, but I did go out and spectate at this year's Houston Marathon, and man, what an amazing thing a marathon is. (and what an amazing run-on sentence that was, lol).
I woke up early on Sunday morning to get to a good spot for spectating along the course. I originally planned on riding my bike the few miles from our house to the start line in downtown (and then to a few other places on the course), but when faced with a ride alone before the sun was up I came to my senses and decided to find another watching point that I could drive to. Getting run off the road by a crazy Houston driver or mugged along the isolated bike trail was not something I wanted to risk just to see the start of the marathon. I really should've left my house earlier to get to the spot I wanted (the split where the marathoners take one course and the half-marathoners take another) so I could see both the marathon runners and half-marathon runners, but the roads were already closed. And if I'd tried to find another way to that vantage point or parked and walked, I would've missed the elite runners zoom past me.
I had accidentally spectated at the New York Marathon one year and happened to see the winner run past at a blink-and-you-miss-it pace, so I kinda knew what to expect, but actually seeing runners go past you at 13 miles an hour (let that speed sink in for a second - 13 MILES AN HOUR), even if you're prepared for it is mind boggling. The winner of this year's marathon, Birhanu Gedefa finished 26.2 miles in 2:08:03. Two hours to finish a marathon - two hours, people, two hours!!! I managed to get some shaky video of the elites going past, but the video does no justice to their epicness (plus I was watching them with my eyes instead of through the screen and I was cheering, so please pay no attention to the video quality or my very loud wooooooos). I spectated between mile 8 and mile 9, and the elite runners passed me less than 45 minutes after the start of the marathon. Some perspective on how slow I am: It took me 48 minutes to run my first 5K, and that's only 3.1 miles.
Adding to the amazingness of what the elite runners are able to push their bodies to do is the wait for the next group of runners to come by. The amount of time that goes by with no runners in site, between the winners of the marathon and the just-as-epic runners that qualify for the Boston Marathon (with a time of roughly three hours to finish - and let that sink in for a second) is a good half hour. The elite runners are half an hour ahead of the slightly less elite Boston Qualifiers - the regular runners of the marathon don't even see the elites they're so fast. Amaze-balls.
|some of the Boston Qualifiers|
|4 hour finishers (still a faster pace than my fastest 5K)|
Once the Boston Qualifiers run past, the running field significantly thickens. A steady stream of people ran past me for 3 hours before I headed home to pick up Jack and Dennis and head to another spot on the course. I was also super stoked to spot all 3 marathoners I knew, which is no small feat when thousands of people are streaming past.
The next spot on the course where we watched was at mile 23. There was quite a difference in the runners from mile 8 to mile 23. The field had thinned out considerably, and people were smiling less and grimacing more. There was less running and more walking, but despite everything, everyone was still looking good and trucking along. Those runners are epic in their drive and determination to finish. And if I ever did a marathon, I would still be slower than them! I managed to get over to mile 23 in time to see everyone I knew go past a second time, too. Plus there was someone dressed up as a gorilla at mile 23.
After watching at mile 23 for a while, we headed downtown to the finish line. I wasn't able to get any good pictures of the finish line, but it was still pretty amazing to see everyone running that last little bit to actually finish a marathon!!! I am definitely more motivated to run after spectating; I'm even toying with the idea of signing up for a half marathon next year, but we'll have to see if that's just a crazy reaction after seeing everyone go 26.2 miles, or if it's something I might actually be able to accomplish. We'll just have to see!